From ELF: Authors get asked all kinds of questions...some more diplomatic than others. I have always had this thing about my eyes since I have been a reader from a very young age and I have always been paranoid and believed as a young child that one day I would lose my sight. I asked Christine if she would be willing to share the challenges she faces as I am so impressed that she is such a very busy author despite her vision issues.
So...here are some words from Chistina Amsden...
Thirty-six Point Font
by Christine Amdsden
In case you don't know what thirty-six point font looks like, here is an example. It is the font of giants. And the crutch of the visually impaired.
Most people don't realize that vision problems are not one-size-fits all. You probably don't need to know; I'm not holding it against you. But “blind” is a word that only rarely means utter blackness. Glasses and contacts, though seemingly miraculous when pitted against the most common problems with the eye, do not cure every visual issue that leaves the world a blur.
I have a scarred retina.
The retina is the focal point for visual input. I've heard it described as being like the film in a camera; it's where the images form. In people who are myopic, or near-sighted, these images form in front of the retina. Lenses refract the light so that the images form on the right spot.
But in my eyes, the film is damaged. The result is a hole in the center of my vision where the scarring occurs. A blind spot. Oh, it's not black. Images are interpreted by the brain, which does its best to guess what's in that hole. It uses context clues, especially the surrounding colors and textures, to fill in the hole for me. The result is that when I speak to most people at a conversational distance, their face looks hairy – a bit like Cousin It. Step a bit further away and your entire head may disappear into the wall behind you.
Or maybe not – I do tend to look at things out of the corner of my eye. I rarely look people full in the face because it's disconcerting to look at a talking ape. If I look at a spot just past your ear, I'll see … not your face. It's not that clear. But at least the impression of a face.
My vision is bad enough that I cannot read normal text. I use magnifying glasses, but even with magnifying glasses I find that making sense of the ants walking across the pages of a regular book is usually more trouble than it's worth. I listen to audiobooks 99% of the time. The other 1% of the time, I use an ebook reader on the largest font setting. It's not relaxing, not like reading was when I was a kid (this came on me at sixteen), but it gives me access to the many, many books that are not currently available in audio format.
Writing blind isn't as tough as you might think, not with today's technology. I don't know if it would have been possible for me even thirty years ago, but right now I am typing this in thirty-six point font and reading it easily. An e is just a dot but an e is perfectly clear.
Editing can be a challenge because even at large fonts, some letters look similar. I've realized recently that I have a bit of a problem with our vs. out and or vs. of. A simple typo can be overlooked because letters like r, t, and f are similar, the spell-checker doesn't catch a correctly spelled word, and my eyes will see what is supposed to be there.
To tell you the truth, this is a problem for sighted writers too; I think I take it a bit more to heart because of my visual impairment. I don't believe I am more guilty of these slips than anyone else, but when I find them I grow paranoid that there are others I've missed and when readers find them … well, I am a bit of a perfectionist. I try my best to put excellent work out there from the story all the way down to the words.
I do hire editors. It is probably telling that editors miss these things too. :)
I am an editor and writing coach, as well as a writer, though I avoid copy editing. (Editing is a many-layered process; copy editing is only the last pass.) But I work with a variety of writers on their story, content, style and grammar. Again, I use a thirty-six point font and in so doing I see a lot of things that others miss. I have suggested to more than one writer that if you write in twelve-point font, you should edit in fourteen. You may be surprised what you see.
When it comes to telling a story, I do not believe that my vision has made much of an impact, except possibly in how I choose to relate certain aspects of those stories. For example, you are unlikely to see me go on at length about a car, truck, or any other sort of vehicle. I often make notes for myself to come back later with a make and model, if it's important enough to mention. In the Cassie Scot series, I put together a list of characters and asked my friends what kinds of cars they thought each would drive. But this isn't the sort of thing most readers pick up on. I'm hardly the only writer to minimize the importance of cars; I'll simply never write a character who is a car enthusiast! I can't drive, I don't care, and I don't really want to know. :)
Facial expressions are also a challenge for me. Not having clearly seen emotion relayed through facial expressions in over twenty years, I tend to borrow phrasing from the books I read in order to convey this type of thing. I also rely heavily on dialog, including tone of voice, because this is more immediately relevant to me.
For the most part, though, my specific writing quirks are just that – quirks. We all have them, and for a variety of reasons. The biggest tool I use to help me write is simply … this.
Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)
Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.
When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood’s grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie’s father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.
But things may not be precisely as they appear.
Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own? Conclusion to the Cassie Scot series.
From the Prologue
Evan’s face stared back at him from a large glossy poster hanging in the front window of the local post office. The words “Wanted Alive” were splattered across the top in big red letters. Someone had cast an animation spell over it to make his hooded eyes shift slightly, as if in guilt. Evan had seen all that before, but a new addition to the bottom of the poster stopped him dead in his tracks: “One Million Dollar Reward.”
“Crap,” he muttered under his breath. He looked around, more than half expecting an ambush right there on the street, but he saw nothing sinister. He reached within himself for his magic anyway, channeling it into a shield that would protect him from most magical attacks.
A million dollars. This was going to bring out every crazy in the country! He had been fighting bounty hunters for over a month, ever since the wanted posters first went up, but then the reward had only been $100,000.
The Scots were either getting desperate or stupid to try something like this. Rumors already abounded regarding his bottomless reserves of magic, making him out to be some kind of inexhaustible fountain of power. The million-dollar reward would only confirm these lies in the minds of many; which meant that if someone did manage to catch Evan, the Scots were unlikely to get their hands on him. Why would a bounty hunter settle for money when he could have Evan’s magic for himself?
Evan turned away from the poster and was just about to continue down the street when a black Suburban turned into the post office parking lot, cutting him off. He waited for it to pull into a spot, his shields still up, his senses alert.
Robert Scot, Edward Scot’s cousin, stepped out of the vehicle, threw Evan a dirty look, then went around to the back to pull a four-year-old girl out of a car seat. The presence of the child did not convince Evan to lower his guard, though he truly hoped they hadn’t sunk so low as to fight when an innocent child might get hurt.
One million dollars. People had killed for far less, and had allowed children to become victims. Robert Scot was a strong practitioner, on par with Edward, but he didn’t have access to the secrets of alchemy, and he was not a rich man. He earned a good living as a bank manager or something, but one million dollars had to be a temptation.
The two men did not take their eyes from one another as Robert walked into the post office. Robert clutched the wriggling child, who clearly wanted down, to his chest in an almost painful grip. A minute later he was past, and Evan breathed a little easier. He walked away from the post office, heading down the sidewalk in the direction of his Prius, parked a few stores down. He still had errands to run, but in light of what he had learned about the reward, they didn’t seem important.
Suddenly, an explosion rent the air. Evan dove behind the nearby antique shop, his shields maxed out, his senses hyper-alert. When he peeked around the corner, he saw smoke and debris where there had once been a Suburban.
The chubby face of the little girl filled Evan’s mind, and he felt a moment of terror as he wondered whether or not Robert and his little girl had already returned to the car. Practically flying from his hidden position, Evan sped back to the post office and that mockery of a wanted poster, his eyes searching the interior until they fell, thankfully, onto the shocked faces of Robert Scot and his daughter huddled safely inside the building.
Robert’s face didn’t remain shocked for long; it fell into an enraged scowl. Robert shoved the girl into the arms of a nearby post office patron and marched outside to confront Evan man to man.
“You son of a bitch! My daughter could have been in there. I almost left her there while I ran inside, but then I saw you.”
“I didn’t do that. I ran back to make sure you were all right.” More the girl than Robert, but still....
Robert didn’t respond with words; instead he let loose with a torrent of raw energy that battered Evan’s shields until he could scarcely hold them. Raw magic wasn’t normally a useful attack strategy, but powerful emotion could turn it into one for a short time. Another blast like that and Evan would be in trouble, but he had no intention of letting Robert get off another shot. He parried the attack with his own telekinetic gift, throwing Robert bodily backward, forcefully enough that he smashed through the wanted poster and the glass window, shattering it.
Evan didn’t wait for Robert to get back up; he ran. He hadn’t caused the explosion, and he had no reason to finish a fight against a man he scarcely knew, but one whose family seemed to want to go to war with his.
The worst part was that someone in Evan’s family probably had done it–they had been muttering for weeks that they couldn’t just let the Scots persecute him. Evan had begged them to give him time, but obviously time had run out.
Robert wouldn’t care whether Evan had been personally involved or not, nor would the rest of the Scots. And maybe they were right. Evan would find out who had done it and set him or her straight, but the damage was already done.
The first direct shot had been fired.
(For my review, please see this link)
Barnes and Noble
Print Release Date: October 15, 2014
Audiobook Release Date: TBA
The Cassie Scot Series:
Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.
Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Cassie Scot #1)
(My review is at this link)
Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)
(My review is at this link)
Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3)
(My review is at this link)
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that affects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.
In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.
Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.
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